Why retirement planning matters at any age

Whether you are nearing retirement or it is several years away, it is never too early to start thinking about how you will finance your golden years. Even if you are already retired, you should regularly review your arrangements to ensure you continue meeting your retirement goals.

Whatever your situation, what do you need to think about to secure the retirement of your choice?

Approaching retirement
Even if retirement is a way off, there are certain things you need to consider – the earlier the better – to make sure you are on the right track financially. There may be steps you can take today to help make your dream retirement a reality.

Questions you should ask include:
• Will I be able to afford to retire when I want to?
• What is the best strategy for withdrawing from my business or employment?
• What options do I have for my pensions? Are they likely to change?
• Will I be able to retain my existing wealth and assets?
• Do I want to spend some or all of my retirement abroad?

Let’s say that you plan to retire within the next five years in Portugal. You may have concerns about whether you can afford your preferred lifestyle without having to sell existing assets. You may not want to have to downsize your home, for instance, as you would like this to eventually pass on to your family. Perhaps you have a business to sell and are unsure how best to convert your years of hard work into a retirement nest egg. Then there are the complex residence and tax implications of living in a different country.

Here, professional financial advice can prove invaluable. An adviser can take a holistic view of what you have – your savings, investments, assets, pensions – together with what you want – your timeline, income requirements, legacy wishes – and an objective assessment of who you are – your circumstances, goals, risk appetite – to design a personalised retirement plan for you.

Already retired
If you have already reached retirement age or stopped working, that doesn’t mean you should forget about retirement planning. After all, you could be retired for 30 years or more!

Regular reviews allow you to adapt your strategy to suit your changing circumstances and goals, such as incorporating new family members, addressing health issues or relocating. It also enables you to keep up with the ever-changing tax and pensions landscape, including new opportunities that could work in your favour.

Your pension options
Pensions are usually the foundations of retirement, so deciding what to do here may be one of life’s most important financial decisions. Pensions are complex anyway, but with greater freedom and choice than ever – and an increase in sophisticated pension scams – you must take extreme care.

You might benefit from consolidating several UK pensions into one to provide a coherent, more cost-effective investment platform for your retirement income.

However, this may not be the most tax-efficient approach if you live in Portugal. By receiving pension income in sterling, you would also be exposed to conversion costs and exchange rate risk.

Britons resident abroad have the option of transferring UK pensions to a Qualifying Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS). Doing so can unlock advantages you do not always get with UK pensions, such as flexibility to take income in euros and more freedom to pass benefits to chosen heirs. Transferred funds would also be protected from UK lifetime allowance charges and future UK pension rules that may adversely affect you – an increasing possibility after Brexit.

If you transfer UK pensions to an EU-based QROPS as an EU resident, you can currently do so tax-free, but transfers outside the EU/EEA invite a 25% UK tax penalty. Once outside the bloc, the UK government could potentially widen this taxation net to capture EU-based QROPS in the future.

Transferring is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution and the benefits of a QROPS can vary greatly between providers and jurisdictions. Be sure to take regulated, specialist advice before making any significant pension decision to protect your benefits and establish the most suitable option for you.

Retiring in Portugal
If you have yet to move to Portugal but wish to retire here, it is especially important to review your retirement strategy early. Not only will you need to consider your residence status and cross-border tax implications in a post-Brexit world, you will need to adapt your estate planning to suit the very different local succession rules.

In any case, careful planning is the key to minimising taxation and maximising the available opportunities so that you can enjoy the retirement you want for as long as you need. For the best results, take specialist, cross-border advice.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.

By Adrian Hook
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Adrian Hook is a Partner of Blevins Franks in Portugal and has been providing holistic financial planning advice to UK nationals in the Algarve since 2008. He holds the Diploma for Financial Advisers (DipFA) and is a member of the London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF).